Kirsten Lee (English)
"'Sister, wasn’t it good': Feminist Legacies at The Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival"
This paper examines the 1973 Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival to investigate how Black women’s relationships to each other as writers and readers structured the event’s call for Wheatley’s canonization. I argue that the Festival presents women’s creative intimacy and literary community as the only evidence needed to confirm Wheatley’s importance to American letters. Moving away from prefacing Wheatley with famed detractors like Thomas Jefferson and Amiri Baraka, I shape my inquiry around the Festival’s demand to address the poet’s work as inextricable from her desire, race, and gender. In sum, this paper argues that the Festival makes visible how Black women’s reception of each other’s writing models critique as a communal intellectual practice. Engaging cultural criticism of the Black Arts Movement and Black feminist scholarship and poetry of the 1970s, this paper proposes that women’s mutual witness operates as literary history, as outlined by critics such as Mary Helen Washington, Cheryl Wall, Cheryl Clarke, and Carolyn Steedman.
Katelyn Hearfield (Musicology)
“From Trauma to Bop: The Feminized Genius of Ariana Grande”
This presentation considers how the Manchester Arena Bombing impacted the music of Ariana Grande and its reception as more serious and authentic (or at least less frivolous) than her previous work. While Grande’s publicly known trauma may have granted her access to the masculine-coded mantel of genius, her continued access relies, to a certain degree, on her willingness to perform emotional labor, embracing a traditionally feminine role of nurturer or caretaker. As evidenced by interviews and her prolific post-Manchester output, Grande has embraced this new role, leveraging her enhanced artistic reputation to release songs that foreground topics of feminism and self-care. At the same time, the continued expectation that women address their trauma for the benefit of others may be troubling for women who would prefer to process their trauma privately.